Of all the great city republics that emerged in the Italian peninsula during the High Middle Ages, Venice was the greatest. Florence may have been able to rival it in cultural influence, but in its political and commercial reach Venice was in a league of its own. Venice developed trading posts throughout the Mediterranean and beyond, making its influence felt from London to Constantinople. Here Georg Christ chooses five books that help to understand Venice’s empire, what it consisted of, and why the Venetians managed it the way they did. As he explains, it can help to look at Venice as a corporation rather than as a nation-state.
By the early modern period, Venice’s commercial and political greatness was already fading. After the republic was finally abolished by Napoleon in 1797, the poet Wordsworth described it in his sonnet of 1802 as ‘the shade of that which was once great’ passing away. But this period of Venice’s decadence was arguably her greatest moment. Venice became one of the world’s first tourist cities, with its artistic and architectural marvels arguably the rivals of anything in Florence, Milan or Rome. Matthew Rice, in his interview on Venice, covers the city’s life as a tourist destination and as an encouragement to artistic and literary endeavour.
Venice once ruled an empire that stretched across the eastern Mediterranean, but by the early modern period was already evolving into a city whose greatest claim to fame was as a tourist destination. Here Matthew Rice, author and illustrator of Venice: A Sketchbook Guide, recommends books to read about Venice and its history and architecture, as well as a couple of crime thrillers to read while you’re there.
Venice: A Documentary History 1450-1630
by Brian Pullan & David Chambers
The Military Organization of a Renaissance State: Venice 1400-1617
by John Rigby Hale & Michael E. Mallett
Venice: A Maritime Republic
by Frederic Chapin Lane
Venice: the Hinge of Europe
by William McNeill
The Venetian Empire: A Sea Voyage
by Jan Morris
The Venetian Republic was one of the mightiest empires of early modern Europe, with its Terraferma dominions on land and a maritime empire, the Stato da Màr, that stretched across the Mediterranean. Its unique strength lay in long-distance trade and, as historian Georg Christ explains, in some ways, it resembled a company more than a state. Here, he recommends books to better understand the Venetian empire, what it was and how it grew.